This month, The Library IT Crowd features Helen McDonnell.
Welcome to The Library IT Crowd, a column brought to you by the Ontario Library and Information Technology Association (OLITA). We showcase some of the great library professionals currently working with technology, get to know them, and share their experiences. We hope we can inspire you and shed some light on what goes on behind the scenes with library tech workers.
Your name: Darcy Glidden
Your title: Director, Content, Spaces & Technology
Where you work: Burlington Public Library
1) Tell me a little bit about your role. What do you do at your library?
I have a diverse portfolio – essentially, I oversee collections in all their forms, facilities and IT. A former colleague misread my title as ‘Space & Technology’ and thought I was working for NASA. As a director, I focus on strategic planning, budgeting and capital projects while still keeping a hand in on the operations side. I thrive on variety so having three disparate areas of focus works well for me.
2) Tell me a bit about your background. What made you interested in libraries? In technology?
To be honest, I sort of fell into this career. I had spent a year riding around Europe on my motorcycle and needed a part time job when I came back to UofT. The library was hiring pages – I applied and started two weeks later. A full-time contract as a library technician morphed into a permanent job and, three years in, I realized this would make a great career. I worked full-time and completed my Master’s part-time. I always had an affinity for technology and was an Internet trainer at UofT – my first job as a librarian was at Oakville Public Library as electronic resources librarian.
3) What projects over the past year are you most proud of?
We tend to run concurrent projects so the slate is always full. We have almost completed our RFID project. BPL had looked at RFID in 2011 and 2013 but deemed it cost prohibitive. With the decrease in tag prices and increased competition in the hardware market, we were able to fashion a compelling argument for our Board. We launch in mid-October, on schedule and under budget. Then there is Communico, a new website, a new discovery layer for the catalogue…
4) What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?
We are planning to launch a new website and discovery layer for the catalogue in late December or early January. Launching simultaneously is ambitious but it allows us to revamp two front facing products while minimizing customer impact – we anticipate the public absorbing this as one change!
5) If you had unlimited funds, what would be your dream project at your library?
That’s easy – a full-on Fab Lab/Maker Space with production capabilities matching those you find at some universities. The City of Burlington launched TechPlace in 2017, an 8,600 square foot innovation hub dedicated to supporting new and growing technology companies in Burlington and across the Region. We would love to be the production arm for start-ups looking to prototype or even undertake small scale production. BPL has done a good job of providing access to some advanced equipment – we have two Makerbot Z18 3D printers, an Epilog laser cutter, a production level vinyl cutter – but imagine what you could do with an unlimited budget!
6) What’s your favorite “shoestring” project that you could recommend to others?
Define ‘shoestring’? ☺ Rolling TVs. We first saw these at Innisfil Public Library and (poached the idea) purchased two, six weeks later. Flexible media platforms for programming, advertising, gaming – all in high def with the lights on! We have replaced our projectors with very large screen televisions in all but our largest venue.
7) How do front-line staff at your library keep up to date with new technologies and library services?
We actively provide training and opportunities to refresh their skills. In 2017 we completed a system wide training initiative, Core Technology Training Program (CTTP), which saw all staff complete a series of modules followed by a culminating activity or test.
8) What is the best part of your day in your current role?
The variety – with three departments there is always something interesting going on. I relish the opportunity to switch gears and it certainly encourages ongoing learning.
9) What is your pet peeve about your current position or your library?
You know, I don’t have one. Burlington Public Library is a wonderful place to work – we are innovative, well supported by the community, award winning – staff are truly customer focused and it shows. That makes my job easier – I look forward to coming to work everyday. Looking to relocate? Keep an eye on BPL job postings!
10) Do you feel as though your library services are valued by your community?
Absolutely. We have seen recent significant spikes in membership, programming numbers and usage. BPL effectively markets to our community and it is paying dividends. As Burlington grows so does the use of the library.
11) How do your library patrons use technology at the library? At their homes?
BPL has always been an early adopter – we were one of the first libraries to offer public Internet access, BPL has lent mini-iPads and eReaders for many years, we have Chromebooks, Macbooks and iPad Pros for loan. We encourage a ‘try before you buy’ service model for tech and offer one-to-one tech meetings to assist customers pre and post purchase. We have seen a decided increase in BYOD at the library and have improved infrastructure to support that evolution – new desks offering power, increased wireless bandwidth and charging stations.
12) What online library resources are most popular? Where do you get the most bang for your buck?
The DIY and entertainment products are certainly the most popular. Lynda.com, Hoopla, Overdrive – all are growth areas for us.